Sunday, March 09, 2008

Friday 13th May 1938

Made several hasty calls today, then, at 1 o’clock, drove the Battered and Ancient Vehicle into Kennings Garage. Battery to be charged and topped up. New pistons, block and gaskets. In short, engine reconditioning. The bill will be about £7.

Back to Eastwoodbury by 2:30. Damned exhausting walk along the lane but – I’m glad the summer is here! Spent the afternoon painting my bedroom – pale blue undercoating which I had made up myself. Maybe I’ll finish with a pale green. Cool shades. Very soothing job, painting.

Pat and I met tonight, instead of on Monday. A beautiful evening. We walked along the lane to Noble’s Green. The lane became a bridle track and the track became a path that wound through the woods. I was smoking Russian cigarettes – quite accidentally – and their Turkish-like flavour reminded me of another love affair that had never been happy for long. The first love.

Tonight I’ve decided to make my last throw of the dice to win Pat’s love – a Real - Deep - Desperate love, not the comfortable affection which she gives me. Now it is done; the last way. We shall either drift peacefully apart, without any dramatics, or else – Success! “What was the suggestion you wished to make about us?” asked Pat placidly as we walked through the woods at sunset. “Your first love affair ends tonight”. Silence. “That’s more like a statement than a suggestion, “ she said at last. “Yes, I suppose it is. I don’t mean we’ll never meet again. A pleasant friendship can now begin. Platonic friendship is quite possible after the love is over”. “Oh, I’m glad of that”. Silence.

A few minutes later we sat on a fence at the edge of the woods. We argued. She tried to make it into a debate. (“You didn’t trouble to consult me before you decided, did you?”) She attacked me fiercely, arguing about small points, trying to prove my views were wrong or my attitude wrong. Silence. I spoke bitterly, using all the bitterest words I knew. How our little love had been born in a lousy classroom and had gone to London, to Warwickshire, to the sea-wall, to a road-house… and now it was dying at the edge of a wood, beyond a field of buttercups, at twilight. In the spring, when everyone was falling in love, ours was ending. And we walked back through the woods.

We sat on a tree trunk for a while to postpone the reaching of the road. Then we walked on, silently. The moon rode in the sky; nearly at the full. Hellish beautiful. Too damnably beautiful. I did something rather brutal. Pat did not want to talk, so I let her go on ahead, alone. “Is that better?” I asked when we were five paces apart.“No. It isn’t.” “Then perhaps a little further” and I was ten paces behind her.

Her dark figure moved slowly into the thickness of the woods; I knew she wanted me to overtake her, knew she was afraid of the darkness. I let her be afraid. But eventually we stood together and kissed gently. Her face, a few inches away, she said softly, “Why are you so horrid to me?” How sweet it seemed then. But – how insensible of her, not to recognise the vitalness of that instant. All could have begun again, more wonderfully.

We walked, arm in arm, out of the woods, along the bridle track, into the lane. I looked back. Oh, why did everything have to be so beautiful tonight? We were silent. I stood her on a high bank so that our lips were level and we kissed – perhaps, probably, for the last time. Beside the lane was a white stone – the Borough boundary. As we went past I laughed gaily and jerked apart our entwined fingers.
She smiled in the dark. She said nothing. I tried to make our jolly friendship start from that moment but it didn’t, quite. She did not speak very much.

Eventually we reached the road, and a bus came. I left Pat at the gate of her home.
Twenty minutes later I was walking along Eastwoodbury Lane in the moonlight. Such a lovely evening. The damned reminiscent aroma of my cigarette. “Unhappy love affairs” I thought with each draw of the smoke. “Unfulfilment!”

Why should I have chosen Russian cigarettes tonight? And why should it be a summer’s evening?

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